Mary J. Blige: Keeping Black Music Month’s Cultural Flame Lit All Year

That Mary J. Blige chose June to announce her “Good Morning Gorgeous” fall tour was no mere coincidence – in addition to the marking of Juneteenth June 19, the month is also recognized as Black Music Appreciation Month, and Blige is as representative of the vast spectrum of the music, and a tireless ambassador of the culture that created it, as anyone.

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WHO’S HOUSE? MARY’S HOUSE: SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., is Mary J. Blige’s house during the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show Feb. 13. Blige was a highlight of a historic performance celebrating hip-hop music and culture. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

And “Black Music Appreciation Month” is – or at least it should be – as much about celebrating that culture and its champions as it is about creating playlists of favorite Motown or hip-hop tunes (or, as one music executive half-joked to Pollstar, “whatever white radio guys say Black music is”).

Blige, the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul” is having more than a moment in 2022, starting the year with a historic Super Bowl Halftime Show performance in February, followed by her own curated “Strength of a Woman Festival And Summit” in Atlanta in May, being named to the annual TIME 100 Most Influential list and performing at its gala June 8, and continuing her hot streak with the announcement of the 23-city “Good Morning Gorgeous” tour with Ella Mai and Queen Naija that launches Sept. 17 in Greensboro, N.C.

Since her acclaimed Super Bowl performance with Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem, Blige released Good Morning Gorgeous, with the title track going to No. 1 at R&B radio for nine weeks. It also took on a life of its own on TikTok, where more than 40,000 users created their own interpretations of the song.

Blige is not just a hugely successful recording and touring artist. She’s also a drum major for her culture, as a Black musician and woman. Her inaugural “Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit” in Atlanta was a lightning rod for Black female empowerment featuring panels with successful Black entertainment and beauty entrepreneurs, music and comedy, and capped by a joyous, sold-out May 7 concert at State Farm Arena.

The concert moved 11,337 tickets and grossed $1,010,146 as reported to Pollstar, which featured a lineup that spanned generations, from Blige and other legends including Chaka Khan to relative newcomers like Ella Mai and Queen Naija, both of whom join Blige on her fall arena tour.

Mari Davies, vice president of booking and talent for Live Nation Urban that co-produced the event, praised Blige for her effort – which Blige has said was a dream of hers since 1991. With the inclusion of so many young artists, she’s invested in amplifying the next generation of Black artists.

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“Mary J. Blige was very involved in the curation of both the summit, as well as the talent for the musical performances,” Davies told Pollstar. “Mary is definitely someone who stays aware of what the next generation is listening to. She is a trendsetter, so 100% she was involved in the curation.”

Now, she’s touring with The Black Promoters Collective on her “Good Morning Gorgeous” tour.

BPC has been putting up some impressive numbers in 2022 with New Edition and Maxwell tours – both of which have appeared on Pollstar’s LIVE75 Top 10 in recent months.

Blige’s partnership with BPC fills the bill for reasons beyond the hits, awards and box office figures.

To BPC CEO Gary Guidry, the difference was something more than competition between promoters.

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IT’S ABOUT TIME: Mary J. Blige performs at the 2022 TIME100 Gala on June 8 in New York City, where she was honored as one
of the magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year.
(Photo by Kevin Mazur / Getty Images / TIME)

“We talked about the differences between us as competitors, but we’re also about the culture,” he explains. “We call ourselves social engineers. We know how to program the culture. But more than anything, we know what Mary means to the culture. It’s a strong cultural moment for all of us in so many ways. So in approaching her and her team, with all her success with those causes, I think she and her team also said, ‘Wow, look at what these guys have done with those tours. And they saw what we did within our culture and how there was a groundswell, from the ground up, and it was like, ‘Well, they can do that with those two tours. What will that look like if we get together?’”

BPC co-founder and President Shelby Joyner reminds us that celebrating Black music is about more than great songs.

“Mary J. Blige has been one of a select handful of artists at the top of our desired list to partner with since the initial construction of the BPC,” Joyner says. “Having her support in our mission so early in the process is a testament to the hard work we have put in to bring superior cultural experiences powered by Black business to the masses. We firmly believe this is a match made in heaven and are honored to partner with the Queen.”

The Black Promoters Collective is unusual among concert promoters and producers in that it is truly a collective – membership isn’t restricted to concert promoters and includes venue operators, festival directors and other business owners. Its members face many of the same challenges, not only thanks to a viral pandemic, but historically with a segregated industry wrestling with its own history.

“There’s no better brand and talent to work with than Mary J. Blige,” Guidry says. “You know, she’s the queen of R&B. She’s the pinnacle of being a female artist in this space, and she’s having a heck of a year. I think the success of her earlier tours, along with the mission of what we’re trying to accomplish as a as a group of independent promoters – proving that we can go into the marketplace and sell more tickets with a greater level of detail and attention to the artist’s needs, with the relationships in the community to get the word out even stronger on a grassroots level.”

When the BPC talks about “partnerships,” they mean it. They, and Blige, are teaming with Hologic – a technology leader in the field of women’s health to produce the tour and add a component of health education. They share a goal of moving communities forward – a mission as important as the music to Blige, and a reason she remains the Queen.

“We weren’t just looking to promote shows. We weren’t just looking to sign artists, but we were looking to partner with artists,” BPC Chief Marketing Officer A. Troy Brown explains. “When you can partner with a brand like Mary J. Blige, as well as partner with her mission and as an artist and her beliefs, which we want to share with our community, that’s really what we set out to do. And this is an opportunity for us to tap into that mission.”